09/20/13 - Havana Times - Cuba: The Repercussions of the Carcasses Affair
Should we congratulate Silvio Rodriguez?
By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES As we might have expected from an incident as talked-about
as asking for political changes in Cuba during a massive official
function, musician Roberto Carcasses (RC) has gone from being what he is
a brilliant and innovative artist to a kind of test case for political
militancy on the island.
The first to come forward, of course, were the systems watchdogs, those
who supported the administrative measures taken against RC. This included
artists compelled either by their own convictions or opportunism to
support everything the regime does and the increasingly sterile,
insignificant and badly-paid government bloggers. There was one lot among
those who supported the sanctions, however, that caught my eye: Miamis
tiny pro-Castro bunch.
The first to speak up was a radio host who used to have a show about cult
musicals in Cuba and is today a kind of militant mudslinger who flirts
with several, apparently opposed political tendencies (which, in truth,
are mutually dependent).
Then came Max Lesnik, whom I mention and quote only to show the
ideological backwardness and decadence of pro-Castro circles. For Lesnik,
the main problem with RCs statements is that he called for the
legalization of marihuana, (
) to smoke it, as he said, to be able to
party hard, in the lap of vice and corruption. Of course, none of that
means freedom. This whole business of marihuana for everyone, I dont
agree with that.
To summarize, Lesnik comes off rather foolish with such a vulgar dismissal
of the broad range of complex issues referred to by RC. One of those
thorny issues, in effect, is the legalization of drugs like marihuana, a
very serious international debate which this political analyst (in lower
case, to be sure) reduces to partying and debauchery.
I should point out that, when I wrote last weeks article on Carcasses
statements, I didnt know what the artist had meant with Maria. Now that
I know, I, who have fun in ways which do not involve the use of drugs,
have yet another reason to congratulate RC.
Then we have those who support RC. Within Cuba, they have shown merely a
kind of guild solidarity. In other words, they have only touched on the
issue of an artists right to make use of the stage for such political
demands. Nearly all have reproached RC for using an official function
related to the Cuban Five for other purposes.
These are erroneous presuppositions that dont hold water.
On the one hand, I believe we have to defend the right of artists to
express themselves as they see fit, be it through a speech or a song. But
I also believe this right should be granted all citizens. RC exercised
this right, availing himself of the fame his talent and hard work have
earned him, and to a certain degree give him immunity.
Other people who attempt to do the same thing are beaten by authorities,
forced to leave the country or worked over at a police station. The only
truly democratic, just and patriotic position would be that of defending
the right of all citizens to express themselves, a right that should not
be denied such prominent intellectuals as Cuesta Morua, Yoani Sanchez,
Miriam Celaya, Regina Coyula and Rodiles, to name only a few who are
denied access to the countrys grandstands.
On the other hand, I believe we have to desacralize Cubas public sphere,
no matter what issue is being debated. Whats sacred for some is not so
for others, and such differences do not make any of us less Cuban. Behind
this issue of the imprisoned Cuban agents and I am also in favor of
their release there is a whole machinery of jingoistic manipulation that
ought to be unmasked, to the benefit even of the imprisoned Cubans.
Silvio Rodriguez. Photo: cubadebate.cu
Silvio Rodriguez. Photo: cubadebate.cu
The most prominent figure to have publicly come forward in defense of RC
is Silvio Rodriguez. Basically, what this veteran Cuban folk musician said
is that RC was clumsy when he made use of the grandstand the way he did,
but that the sanctions the government was planning were also clumsy.
Portraying himself as well above these two blunders, Silvio Rodriguez
asked RC to join the stage with him in a number of neighborhood concerts
and organized a meeting where, it is said, authorities annulled the
Though this is a positive development, I dont think it is the most
important. When all is said and done, RC is young, well-known and talented
and can overcome any petty sanction imposed on him. The sanction would
also, ultimately, prove very costly for the government.
The most important development is that a cultural figure of
post-revolutionary Cuba as paradigmatic as Silvio Rodriguez, or so an
optimistic interpretation of what he said seems to suggest, is moving
towards more tolerant and pluralist positions, something he hasnt exactly
expressed in the known past. If this is the case, I congratulate him.
One of the things Silvio said, for instance, is that he supports the idea
that artists should be able to express their criticisms through different
means, though not at an official function related to the Cuban Five, an
issue he called sacred. He also expressed disagreement with a sanction
as excessive as forbidding a musician to carry out his social function.
If we take the issue to a different terrain and apply pure logic, Silvio
Rodriguez would have to acknowledge that he also condemns sanctions that
forbid medical doctors, professors, sociologists, anthropologists,
journalists and others to carry out their social function, when these
are dismissed from their place of work or subjected to such harassment
that they are practically forced to leave.
If he is ready to condemn excessive sanctions, perhaps he is ready to
condemn such measures against activists of the opposition, and even
against those people who express criticisms without any intentions of
changing the government, as is most often the case.
He should be particularly critical of such measures when they are
implemented during such celebrations as those held by dissidents on Human
Rights Day, a day which, to these Cubans, is sacred.
Some readers will no doubt think I am dreaming. I want to believe Im not.
I would therefore like to see Silvio Rodriguez stand above his own
blunders as he does today over those of others and take back having
signed, only ten years ago, a document supporting the extra-legal
execution of three young, poor black men who committed a crime that did
not warrant such a measure.
I am not, to be sure, asking him to disavow his political views, nor his
fondness towards Fidel and Raul Castro or Machado Ventura. Such positions
are a part of our present and will be part of a pluralist future where
theyll be room for all imaginable political positions.
What I am suggesting is that Silvio Rodriguez ought to distance himself
from a criminal action, so that we can begin to believe in his words and
so that no similar incident ever takes place again. While it is true that
the three young, poor black men were not artists, they were nonetheless as
human and as Cuban as Carcasses and the Five, as Silvio Rodriguez ought to
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